So… I’m an introvert in the worst possible way… As a child I was so shy that I didn’t even dare make eye contact with people. My mom probably thought I was autistic– she thought a lot of things, because I didn’t quite fit the mold of my older siblings, who were more rebellious and outspoken. I saw the drama they caused and simply opted out of the drama– an introvert way of dealing with the world…
My painful shyness I happened to overcome, I realized, by placing myself in front of an audience. When I did class presentations, I didn’t care what my peers thought– with an introvert focus, I simply remained calm and carried on, which, strangely, was associated with a certain level of cool and confidence. I even realized I could make people laugh, by just being smart and not trying very hard, because the latter is not the introvert way…
And strangely… performing… being in front of a room full of people then became a role, an act that I could slip into like Dame Helen Mirren. I wasn’t presenting myself or exposing myself after all. It was an act, and, as an act, it was easy to come out of my shell. Because to perform and project is always easier than shift the focus to oneself and be vulnerable.
So strangely, I was cured of my introversion by acting like an extravert… but… and here’s the kicker, I learned to connect with people.
And so I went into teaching (which I love), while not neglecting my introverted quirks by choosing a career as a writer and translator.
Lately, my work has become so intense in an introverted kind of way (writing and translating) that I feel the introvert lifestyle is good for hermits and the Ted Kasinsky’s (spelling?) of the world but in essence, even the biggest introvert needs people and community. And please don’t write me off as a “libtard” when I say this, but I do believe in Barbra’s Streisand’s lyrics of “people needing people…”
With the onslaught of social media (faux community), we are losing our bearings when it comes to real community, i.e. sitting down with people and asking them: How can I help you? How can we connect in a way that’s meaningful to both of us? Community matters– it matters in making us whole and feeling validated. A like on social media is not the same, even though it tries to simulate a sense of community that’s not truly, really there…
This country is broken and polarized, but rather than hiding behind our profiles on Twitter and Facebook, we need to tune out, and drop out again, to connect as people. And we need to listen, because at the moment, we’re shouting at each other. For an introvert that may seem like a challenge, but take it from an introvert like me that community is salvation and soulful and good, if only we try.
I want to connect– not as Dame Helen Mirren, but as myself, with a person who thinks he/she has nothing in common with me. I want to listen and say I hear you and see you, because you’re not a different political party, or different gender or different race:
We are all people.
But if we can no longer connect as people, we are doing a disservice to our sense of community and, by default, we self destruct. I want introverts to think like extraverts and extraverts to think like introverts. Empathy will set us free, even though the narrative from Washington DC does not try to encourage this in any way.
Truth is: I’m a little desperate about this all, but feel we are all bigger than this and can overcome this, if we tune out, drop out and buy that stranger that cup of coffee. I’m in.